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In Star-Studded ‘Light the Night’, a Unique Taipei Subculture Comes Alive

In Star-Studded ‘Light the Night’, a Unique Taipei Subculture Comes Alive

The year is 1988, and everything is big — the shoulder pads, the perms, and earrings the size of door knockers. In Light the Night, producer and star Ruby Lin leads an A-list creative team ­in telling a story that revolves around the hostesses of a popular nightclub and their paramours, whose entanglements turn out to be just as dramatic as the vintage fashion they sport.

Launching globally on November 26, with the first two episodes screened at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival today, Netflix’s latest Chinese-language release spared no expense when it came to re-creating a distinct nightlife subculture and the period details of 1980s Taipei. The 24-episode Light the Night features a star-studded cast, extravagant sets and more than a thousand costumes.

The show’s setting may be a throwback but it is by no means old-fashioned in its storytelling. Helmed by director Yichi Lien and written by award-winning scribe Cheng Che Tu, Light the Night was developed over four years and is a unique genre mash-up of a murder mystery thriller and an emotionally intense drama.

“I was given the script of Light the Night before the series went into production, and I fell in love with it instantly,” says Jerry Zhang, Manager, Content, Netflix, who remembers finishing reading all 24 episodes in just a few hours. “I was drawn to the suspense of the murder mystery, and also fascinated by each character’s backstory.”

Besides Lin, who plays mama-san Rose, the series also features Cheryl Yang, Yo Yang, Rhydian Vaughan and Derek Chang. “Each actor achieved a breakthrough in their performance,” Lin believes. “With the luxury of telling our story over 24 episodes with such a large cast, we were able to fully satisfy our creative vision,” says Lien.

In the series, which will be released in three parts of eight episodes each, the neighborhood of Tiaotong is almost like another character in the series. In the early 20th century, this was a residential neighborhood for the Japanese elite in Taipei, and it retained its Japanese character even after World War II, becoming the favorite haunt of Japanese businessmen from the 1960s as it evolved into a nightlife hotspot complete with a red-light district. Even today, Tiaotong’s bars, restaurants, karaoke lounges and nightclubs have an authentic Japanese flavor that continues to draw tourists and locals.

“I’m really happy that Light the Night will be released via Netflix in 190 countries and territories,” says Lin. “Through this series, we hope to introduce audiences all over the world to this Taiwanese subculture.”

“It's a very local story set in 1980s Taipei,” Zhang adds. “But the humanity of the story is universal. This further proves Netflix's belief how local content can travel the world.” 

Netflix has rolled out a slate of exclusive Chinese-language shows, including More than Blue: The Series, Zero to Hero and Upcoming Summer, as well as the to-be-released Mom, Don't Do That!.

“There is a big appetite for Chinese-language content and our goal is to find the best stories for these audiences, and bring them joy,” says Zhang. “We value the creativity of our partners and talent in Taiwan who produce this content for us, and we want to make Netflix a home for them to strive for creative excellence. I think Light the Night is a great testament to all of that.”

See more photos from the press conference and screening here.

Light the Night is available from Nov. 26.

Charlie Huang